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Cop Stop? 

A Jordan first: He lurches left on cop discipline

Wednesday, Nov 22 1995
Willie Brown's victory in the first round of the mayor's race appears to have had a remarkable effect on Frank Jordan's political consciousness. Just nine days after the election results were posted, Mayor Jordan intervened in the long-running saga of the infamous police raid on an AIDS benefit held last New Year's Eve in SOMA. On Nov. 16, former Police Chief Jordan overturned current Police Chief Anthony Ribera's decision to send only two officers before the Police Commission for disciplinary proceedings. Instead, Jordan flabbergasted police watchdogs by insisting that all six officers that the Office of Citizen Complaints (OCC) had sustained charges against go before the Police Commission.

Then, on Nov. 19, after months of all but ignoring the gay and lesbian community, Jordan's campaign suddenly opened a new headquarters in the heart of the Castro, at 18th and Castro.

"It was 90 percent straight people trucked in from the avenues," asserts Peggy Sue, of Bad Cop, No Donut fame.

How could she tell?
"They were all 6-foot-4. Half of them were wearing polyester and half were wearing suits, and the suits all had [police radio] earpieces on. Please -- and they were all getting bombed on wine." Gay historian Gerard Koskovich adds, "The place was crawling with plainclothes cops. ... You can see how welcome Frank Jordan thought he would be in the neighborhood."

Political pollster David Binder calls Jordan's reversal of Ribera political.
"I am sure this is a strategic decision," he says. "Everything is political in his life. Every decision he makes -- if it will have press -- will have political ramifications given the fact he is fighting for his political life. At this point Jordan is realizing he will never win if he does not get a section of the progressive and gay vote." Binder adds, "There is more to win by putting the police officers up on charges than not. He now has to compete with every community in the city now. If he did not overrule Ribera on this, it is likely he would not have had a shot at the gay/lesbian and progressive vote."

Robert Oakes, the mayor's liaison to the lesbian/gay community and manager of Jordan's Castro campaign HQ, takes exception to that analysis. "The opening of the Castro location is definitely a seeking of votes in the community, but the overturning of the chief's decision was based on making the appropriate decision and had nothing to do with the politics of the election."

Jordan's reversal of Chief Ribera is the first sign of his new, "more progressive" metamorphosis. Asked why the mayor intervened at such a late date, after months of silence on the issue, Oakes replies, "That is easy. The chief never informed the mayor he was only sending two [officers to a Police Commission hearing]. He heard about it when everyone else did, in the papers, and the next day he reversed [Ribera's] decision."

Nanci Clarence, who represents the partygoers in the AIDS benefit bust, laughs ruefully after hearing of the mayor's intervention. "It is nice to finally be heard. We can only hope this will send a strong message to the Police Commission that the injured parties are not the only ones who are concerned about police misconduct. Finally, the mayor woke up and smelled the coffee -- we wish the chief could have sniffed this out earlier."

Chief Ribera had wanted to send only two officers before the Police Commission -- despite the fact that an intensive investigation by the OCC sustained 52 separate charges against 21 individual officers. The OCC concluded that the 40-plus-strong raid had treated the 938 Harrison celebration far more harshly than other parties that night, and that the root cause of that different treatment was homophobia, given the numerous homophobic slurs and comments made by officers at the event. The OCC also sustained charges against several officers -- including Sgt. John Haggett of the recent fatal police shooting in the Tenderloin -- for using unnecessary force, making unwarranted arrests, and conducting illegal and unconstitutional search-and-seizures of the apartment and computer of Terence Alan, who organized the party.

The OCC final report on the Harrison raid excoriated 21 members of the SFPD for various misconduct at the raid. This report, however, has never been released to the public. It was reviewed by half a dozen plaintiffs in the Harrison case. These plaintiffs alleged that the OCC sustained findings against Sgt. Haggett for filing a false police report, and against Capt. Mike Yalon and Lt. John Ehrlich -- among others -- for misleading OCC and Management Control Division (MCD) investigators. (Yalon declined to comment on the OCC report. Ehrlich said he "disagreed" with the report and referred further questions to his attorney. Haggett also referred calls to his lawyer.)

Jordan's reversal of Ribera marks a first for the citizen mayor. At no time during his tenure as police chief or mayor has he ever intervened in a police disciplinary matter on the side of the OCC -- not after the Castro sweep in 1989, the Rodney King Declaration of Martial Law, nor the Matrix anti-homeless program.

"The only conceivable explanations are a desperate attempt to gain gay votes," says historian Koskovich. "One thing that does not get on the list of potential explanations is that Frank Jordan is actually concerned about police misconduct. If one tries to explain that [as a motivation], you would have to convince me he had a mystical experience or a psychotic break."

About The Author

Tim Kingston


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